Tears, relief, and gratitude as Jordan vaccinates Syrian refugees

Tears, relief, and gratitude as Jordan vaccinates Syrian refugees
Zaydeh, 64, a Syrian refugee living in Zaatari camp receives her COVID-19 jab. (Raed Omari)
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Updated 18 February 2021

Tears, relief, and gratitude as Jordan vaccinates Syrian refugees

Tears, relief, and gratitude as Jordan vaccinates Syrian refugees
  • Dozens of elderly Syrians receive their vaccinations at Zaatari camp in Jordan
  • Jordan is first country to include refugees in its nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan: For Um Ali, a 73-year-old Syrian woman living in a refugee camp in Jordan, being vaccinated against COVID-19 was a moment of overwhelming emotion.

“I really feel more secure now from the corona that has added a lot to our burdens,” the mother-of-five said, her eyes filling with tears. “For an old woman of my age, receiving the vaccine was such a great blessing. Thank you Jordan.”

Um Ali was vaccinated against the disease on Monday at the sprawling Zaatari refugee camp, which is on Jordan’s border with Syria. Her jab was part of an inoculation drive that got underway this week at the camp, which is home to 80,000 displaced Syrians.

As the world’s wealthy countries race ahead with vaccinating their populations, Jordan has begun delivering the jab to some of the most vulnerable, those driven from their homes by the turmoil that has shaken parts of the Middle East in the last 10 years.




Zaydeh, 64, a Syrian refugee living in Zaatari camp receives her COVID-19 jab. (Raed Omari)

“Jordan is the first country in the world to include refugees in its nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive,” Mohammad Hawari, spokesman in Jordan for the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), told Arab News. “The vaccination centre in Zaatari is also the first in the world at a UN-administered refugee camp.”

Jordan started vaccinating its population on Jan. 13 and, within three days, Raia Al-Kabasi, an Iraqi living in Jordan’s second largest city of Irbid, became the first refugee in the kingdom to receive the jab.

In a country which has, throughout its history, become home to huge refugee populations, it was a moment of great significance.

“We just want life to be back to normal,” Al-Kabasi said. “The vaccine is the right way of doing this.”




Ibrahim, 72, a Syrian refugee living in Zaatari camp receives her COVID-19 vaccine. (Raed Omari)

Hawari said that a total of 52 Syrian refugees were vaccinated on Monday and another 44 on Tuesday. He said the drive was going smoothly.

The camp, one of the world’s largest, has recorded around 2,000 COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic.

Hawari added that 2,000 Syrian refugees had signed up with the government to receive the jab. Of these, 1,200 qualified under the kingdom’s priority system for the elderly, health workers, and those with chronic health conditions.

The vaccines were administered by Jordanian health authorities and the National Center for Security and Crisis Management, with the UN providing logistical and administrative support.




A UNHCR worker talks with two elderly Syrian men at the camp. (Raed Omari)

Despite spending another cold winter in the camp, refugees spoke of their relief and gratitude for being able to receive the jab.

Ibrahim Elhamad, 69, arrived in Jordan in 2012 as the conflict in Syria was unfolding.

“I feel really privileged to receive the vaccine in a refugee camp when other people in advanced countries are unable to,” he told Arab News.

Jordanian officials have said that everyone living on Jordanian soil, including refugees and asylum seekers, are entitled to receive the vaccine for free. It plans to immunize 20 percent of its 10 million population by the end of the year.




Yahya, 65, a Syrian refugee living in Zaatari Camp has his temperature taken before receiving his COVID-19 vaccine. (Raed Omari)

Hawari said that Syrian refugees in urban centers in Amman, Zarqa, Irbid and Ramtha would also receive COVID-19 vaccines.

“In fact, the vaccines will be given to all refugees and asylum seekers of different nationalities living in Jordan.”

According to the UNHCR, around 10 percent of Jordan’s population are refugees.

Among them are 655,000 Syrians, 67,000 Iraqis, 15,000 Yemenis, 6,000 Sudanese and 2,500 refugees from 52 other nations. More than 80 percent of them live outside refugee camps, in cities and towns.




Omar, 65, a Syrian refugee living in Zaatari Refugee Camp receives his COVID-19 vaccine. (Raed Omari)

“In also vaccinating refugees, Jordan has again proved that humanity is at the heart of its policies and decisions, especially when it comes to refugees' lives and dignity,” Hawari said.

Last month, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Jordan had set an example of how tackling the coronavirus “should be done if we are to keep everyone safe.”

Jordan has included refugees in its national response plan since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.




Doctors and nurses help refugees prepare to receive their COVID-19 vaccine in Zaatari camp. (Raed Omari) 

Dominik Bartsch, the UNHCR’s representative to Jordan, recently said: “Reducing the spread of COVID-19 now necessitates that the most vulnerable people in our society and around the world can access vaccines, no matter where they come from.”

This year UNHCR Jordan is appealing for $370 million to help refugees, to cope with the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Egypt appeals to UN to stop Ethiopia from taking unilateral action on GERD

Egypt appeals to UN to stop Ethiopia from taking unilateral action on GERD
Updated 6 min 51 sec ago

Egypt appeals to UN to stop Ethiopia from taking unilateral action on GERD

Egypt appeals to UN to stop Ethiopia from taking unilateral action on GERD
  • Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry discussed Ethiopia’s imminent second filling of the dam on the Blue Nile with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
  • Shoukry highlighted the importance of the UN and its agencies’ roles in contributing to resuming negotiations and reaching a deal on the GERD dam

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has sent letters to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the UN Security Council chief and the president of the UN General Assembly, explaining the latest developments and the stages of negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Shoukry also discussed the issue with Guterres in a phone call, during which he stressed the gravity of Ethiopia’s unilateral actions toward the second filling of the dam without reaching a legally binding agreement and how this would impact the stability and the security of the region.

Shoukry highlighted the importance of the UN and its agencies’ roles in contributing to resuming negotiations and reaching a deal, as well as offering support to the African Union.

Ethiopia started building the dam, 1.8 kilometers in length, in 2011. However, Egypt fears the GERD will imperil its supplies of water from the River Nile. Sudan, meanwhile, is concerned about the dam’s safety and water flows through its own dams and water stations.

Both Cairo and Khartoum stress the need to reach a binding and comprehensive deal that guarantees the rights and interests of the three countries.


Egypt sends medical aid to Libya

Following President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s decision to send medical aid to Libya, two Egyptian military transport planes have delivered two tons of medical aid to the stricken country. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Following President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s decision to send medical aid to Libya, two Egyptian military transport planes have delivered two tons of medical aid to the stricken country. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 39 min 10 sec ago

Egypt sends medical aid to Libya

Following President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s decision to send medical aid to Libya, two Egyptian military transport planes have delivered two tons of medical aid to the stricken country. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Libyan authorities praised Egypt for standing by Libya during times of crises

CAIRO: Following President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s decision to send medical aid to Libya, two Egyptian military transport planes have delivered two tons of medical aid to the stricken country.

This came as part of Egypt’s support and show of solidarity with the Libyan people. It showed the depth of the ties between the two nations, said Tamer Al-Rifai, Egyptian armed forces spokesman.

Libyan authorities praised Egypt for standing by Libya during times of crises, emphasizing the importance of such aid for the Libyan health sector, which is facing challenges, especially the coronavirus pandemic.

The Libyan Moral Guidance Department said that it had received the aid, which had been sent following a meeting between the leader of the Libyan armed forces and El-Sisi. During the meeting, it was planned that Egypt would help Libya fight the pandemic.


Palestinian voters’ attitudes impacted by ‘16 years of failure’

Palestinian voters’ attitudes impacted by ‘16 years of failure’
Updated 55 min 45 sec ago

Palestinian voters’ attitudes impacted by ‘16 years of failure’

Palestinian voters’ attitudes impacted by ‘16 years of failure’
  • Palestinians, by virtue of the Israeli occupation, are traditionally affiliated to parties or large segments of them with political tendencies that often decide their choice at the ballot box
  • In election 2021, independent lists are betting on a change in voters’ moods due to what they call ‘years of wandering and political failure’

GAZA CITY: In the last legislative elections, Muhammad Al-Astal voted for Muhammad Dahlan, a Fatah candidate in the city of Khan Yunis in the south of the Gaza Strip, against his own relative Yunus Al-Astal, a candidate for Hamas.

This time, Muhammad will again vote for Fatah in the elections scheduled for May 22, despite the presence of his relatives standing for other factions.

Now, long since the last elections in early 2006, 36 lists — seven party lists and the rest independents — are standing this time, but voters are exhausted by years of internal division.

Palestinians, by virtue of the Israeli occupation, are traditionally affiliated to parties or large segments of them with political tendencies that often decide their choice at the ballot box. 

However, independent lists are betting on a change in voters’ moods due to what they call “years of wandering and political failure.”

Muhammad is one of those. He inherited an affiliation to Fatah from his father and brothers, and he believes that the party is “the most capable of leading the Palestinian people.” 

The internal differences in Fatah, with the presence of three lists competing in the legislative elections, did not affect his position. He supports the official Fatah list formed by President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We should not be distracted, either in voting for candidates based on kinship, or for other lists. We need Fatah unity to complete the march of struggle and liberation from occupation,” Muhammad told Arab News.

With the factions at the Cairo Dialogue agreeing to adopt full proportional representation in the upcoming elections, instead of a mixed system (lists and individuals), a candidate’s personality is no longer a central factor in attracting voters.

Experts call voters such as Muhammad the “solid bloc,” which is made up of those who belong to political parties and whose votes are settled in favor of their party lists, and are not influenced by their tribe or geographical region. They do not pay attention to the electoral campaign.

Muhammad did not heed, in the last elections, any criticism of Dahlan, who has been leading the democratic reform movement since the decision to dismiss him from Fatah in 2018. This time, he has formed an independent electoral list, but Muhammad will not vote for him.

The Vision Center for Political Development polled experts and academics about voter priorities for a particular list, asking how do social upbringing, and the factors of belonging to social spaces such as family and tribe, or geographical space such as city and village, affect attitudes. 

The poll concluded that “tribalism will not matter in these elections, and the priority will not be for the political program.” The decisive factor will be party affiliation, in addition to a list’s chances to provide on an economic level.

Samer Najm Al-Din, law professor at Hebron University in the West Bank, said: “Political affiliation will be the most prominent player in guiding the voter, and there is no Palestinian who is not intellectually framed.

“Unfortunately, the detailed electoral programs of the candidate blocs will not have a major role in influencing the voter. What may affect the voter’s orientation is the clear or broad headings of the electoral program, such as the adoption of resistance or economic prosperity, without paying attention to details. The electoral program that is based on clear, simplified ideas, appealing to the Palestinian with bright headlines, is the program that attracts the general electorate.”

Sania Al-Husseini, professor of political science and international relations at the Arab American University in Ramallah, said: “There is no doubt that the Palestinian scene is complex, especially at the current stage, and its priorities in voting for a list differ, depending on the economic and social situation, and so on.”

Regarding the conditions of social upbringing, and the factors of belonging to a family or tribe, Al-Husseini believes both will have an impact on the attitudes of voters, but the nature of the existing system limits these effects, because of the proportional voting system.

Political development researcher Thamer Sabaana believes that, based on opinion polls, factionalism will continue to play a key role in the results.

Hussam Al-Dajani, professor of political science at the Ummah University in Gaza, agreed that “belonging to the party is stronger than belonging to a tribe or geographical region,” but added that 

“16 years of failure and political wandering will have a clear impact on the attitudes of the voters.”


UN has inspected Iran's Natanz plant after explosion: Nuclear watchdog

UN has inspected Iran's Natanz plant after explosion: Nuclear watchdog
Updated 41 min 4 sec ago

UN has inspected Iran's Natanz plant after explosion: Nuclear watchdog

UN has inspected Iran's Natanz plant after explosion: Nuclear watchdog

VIENNA: Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have visited the Natanz plant in Iran, where an explosion took place on Sunday, the nuclear watchdog said Wednesday.
"IAEA inspectors are continuing their verification and monitoring activities in Iran, and today have been at the Natanz enrichment site," the UN agency said in a statement sent to AFP.


US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse
Updated 14 April 2021

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse
  • U.S. official said America and the international community can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner
  • Current crisis was the culmination of decades of mismanagement, corruption and leaders’ failure to put the country’s interests first, said Hale

BEIRUT: A senior US official on Wednesday berated Lebanese politicians for fighting over the formation of a new government for months while millions endure mounting economic hardship.
David Hale, US undersecretary of state for political affairs, said America and the international community are ready to help, “but we can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner.”
Hale spoke on a two-day visit to Lebanon amid a months-long political deadlock and dangerous rift between the president and prime minister-designate. The split has prevented the formation of a new Cabinet tasked with halting the country’s rapid economic collapse.
The outgoing government resigned last August, following a massive explosion at Beirut’s port that killed 211 people, injured more than 6,000 and damaged entire neighborhoods in the capital.
The blast hastened the country’s economic and financial decline, which began in late 2019 and has emerged as the gravest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
The local currency has been in free fall since late 2019, losing around 90 percent of its value. The government defaulted on its foreign debt last year and nearly half the population has been pushed into poverty and unemployment.
“America and its international partners are gravely concerned with the failure here to advance the critical reform agenda long demanded by the Lebanese people,” Hale told reporters Wednesday after meeting Lebanon’s longtime Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri.
The current crisis, he said, was the culmination of decades of mismanagement, corruption and the failure of Lebanese leaders to put the interests of the country first.
“It is time now to call on Lebanese leaders to show sufficient flexibility to form a government that is willing and capable of true and fundamental reform,” Hale added, calling it the only path out of this crisis.
“It’s also only a first step. Sustained cooperation will be needed if we’re going to see transparent reforms adopted and implemented.”